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First team

Media view: Expert insight on Norwich

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to bounce back from their narrow defeat at Arsenal when they host Norwich City at Vitality Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Promoted as convincing winners of the Championship last season, the Canaries arrive in Dorset looking to end a run of three straight defeats in the Premier League.

Daniel Farke’s team were handed a tough start with Champions League winners Liverpool, Europa League victors Chelsea and Premier League champions Manchester City three of their first five opponents.

However, fuelled by the goalscoring exploits of Finnish striker Teemu Pukki, the Norfolk outfit took six points from their first five games, triumphing 3-1 against Newcastle and lowering City’s colours 3-2, both wins coming at Carrow Road.

Pukki (pictured below) plundered a hat-trick against Newcastle and what proved to be the winner against Pep Guardiola’s team together with scoring consolations in defeats by Liverpool and Chelsea.

Injuries, however, have hit hard in recent weeks and several key players have been unavailable as Farke’s team have slipped to second-bottom following defeats by Burnley (2-0), Crystal Palace (2-0) and Aston Villa (5-1).

Ahead of the game, afcb.co.uk caught up with Paddy Davitt, who covers the fortunes of Norwich for the Eastern Daily Press.

afcb.co.uk: Has Norwich’s start to the season gone as you would have expected?

PD: Yes and no. To get Liverpool at Anfield on the opening night of the season for a newly-promoted side was a daunting fixture.

To follow the Champions League winners with Europa League winners Chelsea and then Premier League winners Manchester City all in the first five games looked desperately tough.

To come through those five games with six points exceeded even the most optimistic Norwich fan’s expectations.

But reality has bitten hard since with three defeats culminating in a 5-1 hammering at home to Aston Villa before the international break.

afcb.co.uk: Having beaten Manchester City at Carrow Road, what went wrong against Aston Villa in their next home game?

PD: In a word, injuries.

With 12 first-team players unavailable, Norwich went into the Villa game with third-choice goalkeeper Michael McGovern (pictured above) making his full Premier League debut and two unproven development players on the bench.

Allied to that, head coach Daniel Farke revealed on the eve of the game that young captain Ben Godfrey had been playing for weeks with a hernia that needed surgery during the international break and he had a number of players essentially unable to train properly during the week.

Villa were very good and Dean Smith certainly felt afterwards that was a reward for their recent performances, but they ruthlessly made the most of Norwich’s chronic injury list. 

afcb.co.uk: Do you anticipate any of the injured players returning against the Cherries and which injured player has been the biggest miss this season?

PD: Farke was certainly hopeful the likes of Alex Tettey and Mario Vrancic (both groin problems) would come into contention the other side of the international break.

Likewise, goalkeepers Tim Krul (back) and Ralf Fahrmann (groin) while wide player Onel Hernandez (knee) was targeting a return to training over the break.

But given City’s injury backdrop this season, it’s best to wait until the team news drops an hour before kick-off.

Kenny McLean, Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell were all forced to drop out of international squads.

In terms of the biggest misses, arguably Timm Klose or Christoph Zimmermann. Both centre-backs.

Klose is one of the few with prior Premier League experience. Zimmermann proved an inspirational captain on the march to the Championship title. Klose is out for the season while Zimmermann is only likely to return before the end of the year.

afcb.co.uk: What’s the latest on the goalkeeper situation?

PD: Tim Krul (pictured above) was targeting a return date for the trip to the south coast when he originally injured his back in the warm-up at Burnley.

He is such an influential figure that Farke and his fitness team will be doing everything they can to get him back. 

afcb.co.uk: Who is the Canaries’ dangerman?

PD: The obvious answer would be Teemu Pukki, who is in the best goalscoring form of his career for club and country in the past 12 months.

He finished last season as the Championship top scorer and player of the year and six league goals in the big league so far also earned him August's player of the month.

But Emi Buendia is also a key figure, in terms of creating chances for the main man. Both of those were excellent against Manchester City. 

afcb.co.uk: Sum up Daniel Farke’s tenure as head coach in no more than 80 words.      

PD: He was unheralded when he arrived from Borussia Dortmund II in 2017 as Norwich’s first overseas managerial appointment.

He had a tough debut season that ended in a mid-table finish but it laid the foundations for a remarkable Championship title triumph forged on attacking football, astute recruitment and a brave commitment to youth.

Farke (pictured above) is a hugely-popular figure with Norwich fans for pulling off the seemingly impossible of promotion to the Premier League on a limited budget.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

PD: If Norwich have some of their more experienced operators fit and available then they will be far more competitive than last time out.

Plus, they showed in last season's League Cup tie between the clubs that they can cause Bournemouth problems. I’ll go for 2-2.

You can follow Paddy on Twitter – @paddyjdavitt

Match officials: Lee Mason (referee), Matthew Wilkes (assistant), Mark Scholes (assistant), Craig Hicks (fourth official), Simon Hooper (VAR), Stephen Child (assistant VAR).

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